Modi Releases $2.5 Billion Under Support Plan for Small Farmers
(Bloomberg) -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi released 180 billion rupees ($2.5 billion) as part of a program for smallholders, even as tens of thousands of farmers continued their monthlong protest on the outskirts of New Delhi against new farm laws.
Under the initiative, the government has announced to deposit a total of 6,000 rupees in a year directly to the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers in three equal installments.
More than 90 million farmers will get the money in their accounts, Modi told farmers via video conferencing on Friday. The government has so far transferred 1.1 trillion rupees to growers under the program, he added.
The move comes at a time when the protesting farmers, mainly from the northern states of Haryana and Punjab, have been camping outside the capital since late last month. They are demanding a repeal of the laws passed in September that allow them to sell crops directly to private firms instead of licensed middlemen at state-controlled markets. Modi says that farmers will earn more money, but the farmers fear companies won’t honor minimum prices set by the government for various crops.
Farmers’ issues are both emotive as well politically significant in the nation. About 800 million of the more-than-1.3 billion population depend directly or indirectly on agriculture that accounts for 16% of the economy. Farmers are a powerful voting bloc in India, which is the world’s top grower of cotton, the second-biggest producer of wheat and sugar, and the largest palm oil buyer.
Federal Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said this month that farmers should consider the government’s suggestion to amend the provisions they are concerned about rather than push for the entire legislation to be scrapped.
Modi reiterated on Friday that the government was always ready to hold talks with the protesting farmers. “Through these agricultural reforms, we have given better options to the farmers,” Modi said. “After these laws they can sell their produce to whoever they want. They can sell produce where they get the right prices.”
The farmers, however, have vowed to continue their agitation until the laws are repealed, saying that the legislation will hurt their incomes and leave them vulnerable to big corporations.
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